View of Centre Hallway House

I climbed a hill and lost 200 years but where is Jamie?

Mea culpa…

Hmm. Maybe I should have thought twice about committing to writing blog posts while I was on vacation.  I seem to be getting a bit lax about deadlines as the vacation progresses. I guess it’s a good thing no one enforces the deadlines but me. :-)

Anyway, when last we met I was looking forward to visiting The Highland Village Museum (An Clachan Gàidhealach) at Iona in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I am happy to report that I had a spectacular visit on a beautiful sunny day last week. The Village is spread across a hill overlooking the great Bras d’Or inland sea but the views before you even enter the village proper are just spectacular. I was also presented with immediate opportunities to test my Gàidhlig comprehension (I give myself a B+).

A Journey Begins…

Once I paid for my admission ticket, I began my journey through the history of Cape Breton settlement. There weren’t any stones but I still managed to lose over 200 years as I climbed the tree-shaded path up the hill. I wonder if I will find Jamie?

The first habitation on my tour is a Black House—or An Taigh Dubh in Gàidhlig. This is the type of dwelling that many Scottish emigrants left in Scotland when they moved across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia. As I stepped into the hazy darkness of the single room lit only by a peat fire, I was greeted by it’s resident—a shepherd who tended his lordship’s flocks. He apologized for the clutter, as he was in the final stages of preparing to move across the Great Sea to join his wife and children who had already left. He was very interested to hear if I had any first-hand information about the new land of Nova Scotia. I tried to channel my best inner Claire (a character in Outlander for the uninitiated) and make a few comments without prophesying like Cassandra. ;-)

A trifle gratefully, I made my escape from the Black House and move further up the hill toward the first habitations of the Scots in the new world of Cape Breton.

An alien land…

Continuing up the hill, I paused to speak to some other new residents—Heiland Coos!

Once passed the coos, I entered the realm of the first Scots in Nova Scotia. The first thing the Scots had to do when they arrived was clear the great forests that covered their new home. As those of you who are familiar with the Scottish Highlands may realize, this was quite a change from the deforested landscape most of them had left. In fact, many of them had only carried a single axe head on their voyage and had to craft a handle for that before it could even be used.

However, once they did manage to get some trees felled, they were able to build dwellings for themselves and their animals. Entering the log cabin, I was greeted by a frontierswoman—in Gaelic!  I answered her ‘Ciamar a tha sibh?’ with ‘Glè mhath.’ I fancy she was a bit surprised but I don’t think even I could butcher the pronunciation of that too badly. Pleasantries exchanged, she was happy to show me around her humble home.

Prosperity beckons…

Exiting the Log Cabin (Taigh-logaichean), I made my way forward in time to the house of a slightly more prosperous farmer who owned a center-chimney house. This dwelling was a vast improvement over the log cabin. It had painted walls, a hardwood floor and actual partitioned rooms—all clustered around a central fireplace that provided not only for cooking but also the heat for the entire house. Also, many of the rooms served more than one function. You will note in one of the pictures below that the living room is set up for a milling frolic where they waulk the wool to make the cloth softer and more durable. An interesting note about waulking wool—in Scotland waulking was done exclusively by women but in Nova Scotia it was done by women and men. Personally, I think the men just didn’t want to be left out of the singing and gossiping that were part of any Cape Breton function. For all you Outlander fans, I have heard that there may be a waulking scene in Outlander!

After leaving the previous house, I ventured into the church that has served the community for hundreds of years. One of the things I have noticed since I first began coming to Cape Breton almost 15 years ago, is that every community seems to have set aside the piece of land with the best view for their church, and this was no exception.

Leaving the church situated on the high ground, I descended into a Cape Breton village of roughly the 19th century time period. I stopped to peek into a Centre Hallway house from about 1865 and admired the brand new cook-stove. Such a time-saver for the farmer’s wife.

Tentative steps…

After the 1865 house, I walked past the Village School and then stepped into a turn-of-the-century General Store. This is where I got very brave. Not only did I answer the Storekeeper’s ‘Ciamar a tha sibh’ query with ‘Glè mhath,’ but I even ventured a further comment on the weather—’Tha e glè briagh an-diugh!’  Smugly I thought to myself—Àdham would be so proud—unfortunately, however, the storekeeper took this to mean I spoke Gaelic fluently and unleashed a torrent of Gaelic at me. Luckily, she quickly interpreted my panicked deer-in-the-headlights look correctly and switched back to English. We did have a lovely conversation though about how I came to speak even a little Gaelic and I took the opportunity to tell her about a new upcoming television series called Outlander. ;-)

I finally found Jamie…

Next up on my path through the village was the Blacksmith’s Shop. And guess what!! I finally found Jamie. Ok, so maybe he’s not a six-foot four-inch Highland Scot with red hair, but he does speak Gaelic and has a useful skill! I took a few pictures and a quick video of him at work making nails. (And just maybe had a brief flashback to a certain scene in MOBY).

The last stop on my tour of the Highland Village Museum was a turn of the 20th century house. These are the types of houses still much in evidence in many places on Cape Breton. In this house, modern appliances such as stoves, washing machines and ice cream churns are starting to be seen. As I concluded my tour, I stopped to read the signboard about the 21st century Gaels in Cape Breton and also to make a purchase in the gift shop. I’ve never yet experienced anything easy about Gaelic but I’m hopeful this little book will live up to its cover.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this tour through the Cape Breton Highland Village museum with me. If you are ever in Cape Breton—and I sincerely hope you will visit—be sure to stop by. You can find all the details about planning a visit at their website: Highland Village Museum

Final note…

I also wanted to take a moment to congratulate Linda Schultz (@lsdragonfly1) on winning the first ever GreatScot! giveaway. I know that the signed first edition copy of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and the Outlander poster will have a wonderful home—just as soon as I’m home long enough to mail it!

Stay tuned for the next post all about my visit to the Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig) where I see a man about a kilt, observe a waulking demonstration and listen to some fine fiddling from a former Premier of Nova Scotia!

WOD

What Outlander Means to Me – Words in honor of #WorldOutlanderDay

So several people have asked me today if I was planning to write anything for #WorldOutlanderDay. I wasn’t really planning to, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I do have a story to tell.  I may even admit to my darkest, most shameful Outlander secret.

In the beginning…

From reading many reminiscences today, I’ve realized that many, if not most, Outlander fans can point to the exact month and year they first read Outlander. I’m not like that.  I’m pretty sure I picked up my first copies of Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber at a Barnes and Noble somewhere in the mid 90s but I couldn’t say when. And although I know how strongly Diana objected to them being there, I likely would not have ever found the books in a bookstore if they had not been in the Romance section. Anyway, I bought them and took them home. And they sat on my shelf for days, months, dare I say, years. I know I tried to start Outlander several times, but I never seemed to make it past the magic first 100 pages. Finally, in the midst of a paperback book-reducing frenzy, I did something I can’t believe I’m admitting in public: much less in an Outlander-related post, I traded Outlander and Dragonfly in at a used book store.

I know, I know. I can hear the gasps and screams of outrage already. I have no real excuse. Looking back, I can only come up with a couple of reasons why I think Outlander didn’t “click” for me back then. First, I was pretty young.  I was only 23 or 24 and was still pretty much living in the bosom of my family and I think I just had a hard time relating to Claire.  Second, although I’ve always been a huge fan of historically based fiction, neither WWII nor the Jacobite period had ever numbered among my favorite historical time periods. Somehow both these factors, plus never making it past the first 100 pages, doomed me into making a tragic mistake.  Most of you will be quite relieved to note however that now, when I recommend Outlander to others, I make them sign a blood oath  not to stop reading before magic page 100.

Seeing the light–

Luckily, unlike so many other things in life, I was offered a second chance.  I was attending a music festival in Wilkesboro, NC, ( not too far from the fictional location of Fraser’s Ridge) when I started chatting with a weaver who was exhibiting her wares in the arts and crafts tent.  As we were talking about different historically set books we had read, she asked me if I had read Outlander. I readily admitted that I had purchased the book at one time but had never ‘got into it.’ Looking back, I think I’m really lucky she decided to have anything more to do with me. However, as I listened to this lady extol the virtues of the series, I resolved to give Outlander another go, and boy is that a decision that has impacted my life.

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The Outlander Effect or (in Gàidhlig) “Buaidh Outlander”

 Outlander and Scottish tourism

Now that a premiere date for Outlander has been announced, we are slowly yet surely seeing press coverage about the series tick up. One such article published recently got me to thinking. Outlander already has a large and loyal fan base. What impact has there been, if any, on Scotland’s economy and culture? And what can we expect to change after the series starts airing?

First, let me start with the article that intrigued me, published by a site called “We Love Soaps, who bill themselves as the “World’s biggest champion of scripted, serialized storytelling on TV & the web.” I guess the Outlander TV series does fit that description, although I would never call it a Soap! The bit of the article to catch my eye was this:

The fervent on-line fan base totals over a half-million and when the ‘first-look’ photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser posted on the Starz social channels, it outperformed other introductions of lead characters for properties such as The Great Gatsby (Gatsby), Hunger Games (Katniss), Game of Thrones (Ned Stark), and NBC’s Dracula (Dracula). Additionally, when Sam was cast as Jamie Fraser, the fans took it upon themselves to make their voices heard and put him on E! News’ “Hottie of the Week” charts two weeks in a row (which is very rare, if not unprecedented). In addition, #Outlander trended (was one of the top ten things being talked about on Twitter) numerous times during NY ComicCon.  Starz Summer 2014 New Series: ‘Power’ and ‘Outlander’

It is apparent the size and fervency of the Outlander fan base has already been noticed and its impact noted. One example is the recent Twitter trending event held on May 19 for #WorldWideTVNeedsOutlander. The tag trended globally and the fact was highlighted in the introduction of Outlander during the L.A. Screenings event for international TV buyers that same day. You can see Diana Gabaldon author of the bestselling Outlander series of novels — tweet about that here:

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Courtsey @OutlanderTours

Àdhamh Ó Broin Surprises and Delights with Gàidhlig Story and Song at the UK Outlander Gathering

So I hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday. If you’re not, Àdhamh has kindly provided the Gàidhlig to express yourself!

 

Àdhamh had quite the busy weekend as he dropped in on the UK Outlander Gathering as a featured speaker and entertainer. From the flying tweets and Facebook posts, he was quite the hit, which doesn’t surprise me in the least.  I have never met anyone more willing and eager to share the culture he loves so much! Starz and Tall Ship Productions have done a great favor to Outlanders everywhere in bringing Àdhamh on board. Not only does he work long and hard to keep the Gàidhlig aspects of Outlander authentic, but he goes well above and beyond to interact with fans and help those of us who appreciate the culture and are trying to learn more.

Some shots from the Gathering:

However, by far the highlight of the afternoon, or so I hear, was Àdhamh’s vocal performance. Luckily Outlanders far and wide are able to appreciate a part of the performance thanks to this recording by Karin Anderson.

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